Learning to Freedive in Croatia with World-Class Professionals (Video)

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by Tash Pericic,

On the 26th September 2017, we learned to free dive with World Champion Lidija Lijić and Vitomir Maričić; it was an incredible experience and we made a video to prove it!

If I say the word freediving, what comes to mind? The Big Blue, athletes, difficult, holding your breath for an insane amount of time…

When I first thought of freediving, that’s what came to my mind, particularly after watching the movie ‘The Big Blue’. Then, I interviewed Lidija Lijić as a ‘Character of the Sea’ and learned a little more. I was extremely impressed by her accomplishments and her beautiful-mad-passion for freediving but I never thought it was something that one could just ‘try’.

We finished the interview with Lidija telling me, that maybe I could come out with her one day; “sure” I said, thinking it was one of those idle promises or closing sentences but it turns out she was serious.

Two months later I got a message from Lidija asking if I would like to come out freediving with herself and Vitomir Maričić on Palmižana; I jumped at the chance but was quietly freaking out. I love the water and everything to do with it and have no issue swimming but I have never explored the depths. I have never been scuba diving and have issues diving below 2-metres as I have never been able to equalise properly; so, I doubted my capabilities but put on my big-girl-panties and off I went.

We were kindly greeted on Palmižana by the amazing team from Meneghello’s Art Resort but this is a story in itself and I will go into more details later. After being shown around the island by our hosts Tarin Meneghello and Tania Iancone, I sat with Lidija and Vitomir to go over the theory of freediving.

What I learned:

  • What happens to the body when you dive – the ‘mammalian effect’
  • What to expect when you hold your breath beyond what is comfortable
  • Freediving is for everyone
  • The benefits of relaxation and breathing techniques can be used in everyday life
  • Learning to free dive is another way to open horizons and explore a new environment from a different perspective.

After some theory, we took all the equipment and headed down to the water. Once there, we went through around 30-minutes of relaxation and breathing techniques. I began thinking I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath for more than 1-minute and that is roughly where I started. By the time I finished and thanks to Lidija and Vitomir’s guidance I managed to hold my breath for 2:30 mins! Something I deemed impossible at the beginning.

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Palmizana, our dive location.

Then, it was time to ‘suit up’ and hit the water. From here, I will let this beautiful video tell the story…

Video filmed by Vitomir Maricic & Tash Pericic, edited by Miranda Bradbury

As you can see, I began with focusing on relaxing and holding my breath; it took me several attempts to get to a depth of 6-metres – still well beyond what I thought I was capable of – then, eventually, I made it to a depth of 12-metres!

Training with World Class Professionals

Did I ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe? Not. One. Bit. Lidija and Vitomir have such a wonderful and relaxing presence, I felt safe and completely relaxed in their company the entire time. It’s also worth noting that Lidija and Vitomir just competed in the European Championship for Freediving and Lidija – already a holder of multiple world records and medals, won gold in her discipline and Vitomir came in 4th. Lidija also made a new Guinness World Record at the beginning of the year and the two of them are heading to the Himalayas next month to set a new World Record – talk about overachievers!

Freediving course

Lidija and Vitomir offer a full week freediving course but they are working on promoting 1 or 2-day courses. We were a little rushed in timing and actually did all of this in a few hours. I cannot even begin to explain just how incredible this experience was. The sense of satisfaction was immense – to start the day thinking 5-metres was limit and maybe a 1-minute breath hold, to increase that to 12-metres and 2:30 mins in a matter of hours is simply amazing. I can only imagine that if I did a full 2-day course that I would easily be able to reach 20-metres, heck, maybe even 30-metres!

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The benefits of learning to freedive

But, here is the thing – it is not a competition. While I felt proud that I reached 12-metres, it was the feelings associated with the whole experience that will stay with me, the benefits:

  • Pushing beyond boundaries of personal capability
  • The deep sense of calm and relaxation I felt at sea
  • Being in the ‘Big Blue’ – appreciating the sea from an entirely different perspective. Being surrounded by only the deep blue was so enchanting and also addictive, the second I surfaced after each dive, I wanted to get back down – no wonder freedivers are so passionate!

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How it has helped in my daily life

As Lidija and Vitomir said to me in the theory, they believe that freediving offers so much more to people than just being in the water; their hope is that people will take the lessons and techniques into their daily lives. And, if I am going to be completely honest – I have a history of anxiety and panic attacks; the panic attacks are almost non-existent but my old friend anxiety still rears its ugly head from time-to-time. I have employed these breathing techniques since and it truly helps; having worked in emotional intelligence before (EQ), I know just how important the breath is and this was a powerful reminder.

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Who is freediving for?

As I already said – actually Lidija’s words “freediving is for everyone.” It is not just for the athletic and adventurous, ok, an adventurous spirit helps. But, freediving is a way to connect with nature in a unique way and gain new skills in the process. I am already intent on heading back out and plan on recommending this to everyone.

A new way to experience Croatia

Sometimes I worry about the state of tourism and that we are becoming more superficial as a society in general; then, I meet people like Lidija and Vitomir who reinspire and invigorate the soul. There are plenty of people here doing amazing things, offering new experiences and trying to show the ‘depth’ of Croatia’s potential. Are you a tourist or a traveller? Do you skim the surface or discover the depths?

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“Let life leave you breathless”

Isn’t this what life is for? I don’t want to sit on the sidelines of life, I want to dive in and see what it’s all about. So, I am thrilled that there are people like Lidija and Vitomir offering this and I am so grateful that I had the chance to experience it firsthand.

If this has enticed you in the slightest, visit Breathless life here or get in touch with Lidija Lijić and Vitomir Maričić.

See you in the Big Blue!!

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